What is the difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy?

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osteo vs physio

What is the difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy? 24 June 2020

This is a question we are asked frequently, and the truth is that Physiotherapy and Osteopathy have a lot more in common than they differ. As far as I am aware, there are no comparative studies to suggest physiotherapists are better than osteopaths or that osteopaths are better than physiotherapists. It really comes down to the personal choice of individuals.

Physiotherapy is much more common within the NHS and is frequently referred to by GPs, doctors and surgeons. Like osteopathy, physiotherapy uses hands-on treatment to gently work the muscles, bones and joints in your body alongside prescribing exercises and stretches to alleviate your symptoms.

The main difference is that historically physiotherapists did not diagnose specific conditions, usually because their patients were referred to them by a GP who has pre-diagnosed the problem. This is not the case now though and both an osteopath and a physio will be trained to diagnose the symptoms and treat the cause of your problem.

During your appointment, both your osteopath and your physio would approach your body as a whole. For example, if you had pain in your knee your practitioner would discuss the symptoms you are experiencing and ask you questions about your general health, lifestyle and medical history, give you a thorough examination and outline the treatment that we think is most appropriate for you. This may involve treatment around your knee, hip and back alongside advice on how to make small changes to your lifestyle that will improve your posture and reduce the strain on your knee.

Historically a Physio would then give you lots of exercises to do and create a plan with you in order to help continue your recovery in between appointments . Now, certainly at Bannerdale, this will happen whichever practitioner you choose to see.

Physiotherapy in the NHS however still tends to be more area-specific than osteopathy. Your NHS physiotherapist will more often focus solely on the area that is indicated in the referral and is less likely to have the time to consider other niggles and problems you have, often heavily relying on exercises alone for recovery.

Both Physiotherapists and Osteopaths should give you excellent care. This is because whichever form of treatment you choose there are only the two of us involved in forming a plan so we can discuss what is most appropriate for you and appointment availability is a priority so we make sure we keep slots free so there aren’t long waits.

(We also have a blog here on the difference between Osteopathy and Chiropractic if you would like more information)